April 7, 2017
Commune with the gods of solstice
It's often said the band blew the gigs of historical import, yet here's a show of mini-history (a pay-per-view event, FM-network simulcast, spiritual day for some) where they played well. In fact, this nearly 3½ hour show (4 hours, in person) is one of '89's best . After a relatively poor 1st show of the run, a much better show and then a day off, they came back strong.
First Set. After tuning and some amp problems, they decide to jam on the tuning riff, Freddie King's Hide Away. I don't know how many times this happened before, if ever. The rest is above average except for a near-trainwreck in Touch and a weaker Cassidy. Brent is especially strong and the Minglewood and the Deal are both top 5 for '89.
Second Set. One of the best 2nd sets of '89, perhaps due to having Clarence Clemons on stage. He doesn't really add that much, just some color, but seems to animate the boys. Scarlet might be the best of '89 (the first I saw not going into Fire - seemed a big deal at the time. Ha ha.). Hell in a Bucket is even better. A super-tempo version, it wails. A little sax for Ship of Fools really seems to inspire Jer. Estimated is the weak point of the set, though still not below average (this was when Bobby was shouting the verses instead of singing). They leave room for The Big Man but he doesn't take much. I'm not a real Springsteen fan but the guy blew great sax and he gives more to a really good Eyes of the World (perhaps you can view it as a foreshadowing of 3/29/90 w/Marsalis). Drums peaked in this era and, though they rarely get props, I still remember this as one of the best I saw of the era until Vegas '91. Jerry was playing a Strat for Space in much of '89. The rest is above average with Clemons taking the solo for the encore.
1st Set: C+
2nd Set: B+
Overall = 3½ stars
Minglewood Blues - Brent's great
Deal - Jer seems pleased with himself - to our benefit
Scarlet - Brent's just having a good night
Hell in a Bucket - RIYL uptempo versions
Drums - a rare A+
Truckin' - A solid version with a little sax from the Big Man
The venue was new at the time and I hadn't been to it before this run. During the show-less day before we (and a hundred fellow Deadheads) rode the coasters at Great America sans prescience that we were at the future site of the stadium for the Fare Thee Well-50 shows. A non-Deadhead friend had moved to [just a few miles away] so it was natural to drag him across the freeway to the Solstice show. He knew little about the band (other than the fact that I was likely to drive for a couple days to see this weird little one-hit-wonder pop group that had the vid on MTV) and had horrible taste in music (IIRC, his faves: Gloria Estefan and Paula Abdul). We couldn't impress the urgency of prompt attendance and ended up midway on the lawn (after other friends stopped holding out seats down low as they had done the previous days). Pie-eyed (oh yeah, we fucking dosed him), he was garrulously animated about his newly discovered wonders of the universe. Just not getting it (here on the ground), during every verse he'd say, "Oh, the Garcia guy is singing again," and he'd pay attention. Then, during each solo he'd go back to loquacious internal discovery. Then, "Oh, look they're singing again," and he'd pipe down and listen, ignoring those "long instrumental songs in-between that they keep playing". A Springsteen fan, he was blown away when Clemons came out and kept asking, "But is it really him? But I mean, like, really?". Only by the end was he starting to grab a handle. By then he was chuffed and seemed to have been positively influenced. Ultimately it didn't take, and he seemed to forget about it over the following months. He met and married a beautiful but narrowly conservative and sanctimonious woman and turned his back on the bus and any vaguely bus-related elements in life, lasted a couple decades, then offed himself. Weirdness without turning pro. So as not to leave sour: good show though!
SOURCES: Everybody had the FM version and the PPV is on Youtube. The former was fine-sounding and the latter was very compressed but this walker-scotton-miller finally offers a version that really reveals the fine playing in this show.